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Installing solar panels at Aberdeenshire Sailing Trust
Installing solar panels at Aberdeenshire Sailing Trust

Sailing into a Climate Smart Future

The Aberdeenshire Sailing Trust (AST) runs activities in Peterhead, Lock of Skene and Knockburn Loch in Aberdeenshire. The trust provides opportunities to participate in sailing to individuals and groups of all ages and abilities, including school groups, disadvantaged young people, a mums and dads group, and people with disabilities. In 2019, 1,495 individuals took part in sailing sessions.

One of the priorities for the Trust is addressing its carbon emissions and achieving net-zero. The Trust has considered which areas of its operations have the most impact and has been tackling each of these in turn. In 2019, the Trust was awarded £15,000 from the Vattenfall Unlock our Future Fund to purchase an electric van. This was needed to transport boats and equipment between the sites used by the Trust for sailing.

The impacts of the Electric Van (EV) went well beyond the direct carbon savings from replacing fossil fueled vehicles. It has helped to inform and educate a wider audience about electric vehicles. 

"The EV has been a talking point, lots of people asking about it, interested in it, asking about how it tows, about the range, about the charging. It has been a really positive point for others to see and learn about, that change is not as hard as they think. In fact it is positive and better."


Angie Fraser, Principal of the Trust

The next step for the Trust was working in partnership with Peterhead Sailing Club, which owns and manages facilities used by the Trust, to reduce the emissions from its buildings. In 2020, the Vattenfall Unlock our Future Fund awarded £13,822 to Peterhead Sailing Club to fund the installation of solar panels (PV), a battery and an electric car charging point on the clubhouse.

A set of 14 PV panels were fitted to the south slope of the clubhouse roof. They are connected to an inverter in the roof space which feeds a Tesla battery wall for energy storage. The Tesla unit has an internet connection so that the status of charge and energy use history can be viewed via a mobile app.

The inclusion of a battery in the system was felt to be particularly effective as energy use varies considerably day to day, and the battery storage allows the club to maximise the amount of self-generated electricity it can use. From May to June 2021, 73% of electricity needs were met by the new system. This may be even higher in later summer months. Any excess generation can be sold to the grid providing additional income to the club. Once again, the installation has generated considerable interest from club members, social media followers and other sailing groups using the building. Many have expressed surprise about the amount of energy a relatively small system can produce.

The latest step in the Trust’s net-zero journey is securing funding in 2021 to test out using an electric outboard motor on one of its rescue boats, replacing a conventionally fueled 8hp outboard motor. £9,316 has been awarded from the Vattenfall Unlock our Future Fund to purchase the new motor, battery and charger unit.

As yet, electric motors are not widely used in the sailing community. The Trust is aware of only one club in the UK with an electric outboard. However, the motors could offer a major improvement to petrol-driven outboards as they are quiet and non-polluting, which is particularly important for instructors who spend a lot of time sitting close to the motor, as well as having lower emissions.

Using an electric motor will be another chance for the Trust to show a wider audience what can be done to lower emissions. The Trust has actively engaged with the industry body, the Royal Yachting Association Scotland, to share its journey to a climate-smart future. They recently talked about their progress in a podcast available here.

It’s not all been plain sailing for the trust in getting these energy-saving projects underway. The bureaucracy involved in feed-in tariffs and interest-free loans (which supplied the balance of funding for the van) has made for a steep learning curve for the organisation. The delivery of the electric outboard motor has been delayed as the manufacturer is about to bring out a new model, reflecting the rapid advancement of technology in this area. However, the Trust is committed to working with others in the sailing community to share the knowledge and experience which has been built up.

To find out more about the fund, visit Vattenfall Unlock our Future Fund